iPod Loses FireWire, Limits Some Users

Appleis new iPod line up supports USB, but not FireWire. For Mac owners that have a USB 2.0 port, itis not a significant change. On the other hand, for the large number of Macs owners limited to USB 1.1, thatis a problem.

FireWire, the connector Apple abandoned with the new iPod, can transfer information at about 400Mbps (megabits per second), and it can maintain that transmission speed fairly well. USB 2.0 Hi-Speed has a maximum data transmission rate of 480Mbps. On paper, itis faster than FireWire. In reality, itis a little different. USB bursts up to its maximum speed, then drops back down to lower speeds. The end result is that USB 2.0 is not as fast as FireWire. If a USB 2.0 device isnit rated as Hi-Speed, it operates at even lower speeds.

Compare that to USB 1.1, which can burst up to 12Mbps. Song transfers that used to take seconds can now creep up into minutes.

Apple has not yet confirmed for The Mac Observer which type of USB 2.0 connection the iPod uses.

We ran some informal tests using a 12-inch PowerBook with a USB 1.1 port and a 20GB iPod. Our test file was a three minute long song encoded with AAC at 128 kbps. On paper, the song should take 1.867 seconds to copy to an iPod. In reality, it took just over 5 seconds. Copying 20 three minute songs took about one minute, 20 seconds.

So why did Apple drop FireWire? Most likely because the broader iPod market, which includes Windows as well as Mac users, has far more computers with USB ports than FireWire ports. Although this move embraces a larger market, it also hobbles a substantial number of users that canit take advantage of USB 2.0, primarily iMac, iBook and PowerBook users that donit have the option of adding a USB 2.0 expansion card to their system.

Despite the great features of Appleis current iPod line up, limiting them to USB 2.0 is going to leave a lot of Mac users remembering the good old days of FireWire while they wait for their iPod to finish copying its tunes.